September 30, 2010

Hey Mary,

Last week I thought to myself, if women had the option to farm out their uterues, to have their babies grown outside themselves, it would probably become a very popular and standard option. Why not? We op out of birth, exclusive breastfeeding, and mothering in general. Shall we call that feminism? 

Imagine telling men ejaculation is profoundly anti-male. It boggles my mind.

Statistics of homebirth safety are slippery because the population, here, is almost too small to be statistically significant. And since its not legal to assist a woman in labor in most states, unless you are an MD, statistics are not officially complied across the country. You can point your friend to Ina May Gaskin's "Safe Motherhood Project".

Ina May is interesting herself. She is a self taught traditional homebirth lay midwife. She's been in practice since the early 70s in Tennessee. She has delivered over 2000 babies safely at home. She's lost, I think, two babies. She has lost no mothers. There is no obstetrician working in the United States who comes remotely close to matching her safety record. She is, of course, not able to practice legally in NC because lay midwifery is not legal here. Yet, she is so well regarded and so bad ass she does Ground Rounds once a year at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill. 

I have sympathy for your friend's point of view. We are all taught birth is safer and easier in hospital. Why wouldn't we fight for every woman to have that option? Simply put, because birth is neither safer nor easier in hospital. Birth is profoundly more dangerous in the hospital for mothers and babies. I could talk at length about why. But until women experience healthy empowered birth for themselves, they will always be susceptible to pressure from the AMA to submit their bodies, their babies, and (most importantly) their money to the AMA for care. Shall we call that feminist?

Imagine telling women: you are too weak, too frail, too worried about pain, too able to die to give birth. So we'd better just do that for you. Shall we call that feminist? 

Does your friend know that empowered birth can literally be orgasmic? No? It would be good to find out why women don't know and aren't taught that. Our good old AMA, (our feminist society, shall we call it) has neglected to teach empowerment, beauty, love, strength, or orgasm. Why?  How do they support maternal/infant bonding?  And why does maternal/infant bonding seem to be in decline, if we use the rate of exclusive breastfeeding and full time parenting as a barometer?  

The World Health Organisation used to rank birth safety by country for every year with regard to maternal and child morbidity and mortality. For some reason, that statistic keeps getting more and more obscure. But when it was easy to find, the US hovered consistently at about 40, somewhere right between (I kid you not) Afghanistan and Chile. Denmark, Japan, France, Sweden, Spain, these countries usually rank at the top.  All of them use a midwifery model of care.

Keep in mind and tell your friend, healthy birth statistics in the United States don't exist primarily because maternal death is ONLY REPORTED ON A VOLUNTEER BASIS. Did you know? Try to find out the stats for any local hospital. Why can't you find them? Shall we call that feminism? 

Most midwives have a cesarean rate 1-3% of all births. The national average in hospital has been above 30% for years and was 41% last I heard. The implications of this are huge and grim. Shall we call that feminism? 

further reading:
Birthing From Within - Pam England
The American Way of Birth - Jessica Mitford
Immaculate Deception - Suzanne Arms
or anything by these folks: Michel Odent, Raven Lang, Marsden Wagoner, Elizabeth Davis

I wish I had more to give you. I'm happy to talk about all of this anytime. I do think its hugely important. 

Love, Katherine


Katherine said...

Cecelia (CC) said...

bravo! Why not write a book on it. The more books the better. You speak it and write it as if at dinner - easily, burbling out, clearly, with just enough passion to hold even the unconvinced, and not so much as to ostracize a guest at the table. Go ahead, submit the article. It matters. It really matters. Well said. Once documented, hard to refute, it seems.